For a man ostensibly under some pressure to hold onto his seat at Force India F1 into 2011, dropping out of qualifying for this weekend's inaugural Korean Grand Prix at the earliest knock-out stage as did Vitantonio Liuzzi was emphatically not
the manner in which to stake his claim to a stay-of-execution.
Both Liuzzi and team-mate Adrian Sutil have struggled for pace all weekend around the all-new Korea International Circuit in Yeongam County, and both at one point or another featured in the dreaded Q1 'drop zone'.
However, whilst the German was able to successfully extricate himself to safety in the closing moments – and would go on to claim P14 overall – the Italian conversely was not, with his final effort coming up just over three tenths of a second shy of making the cut, meaning just like in Shanghai, Istanbul, Hockenheim and Monza already this season, Liuzzi will be beginning the race from the bottom quarter of the grid in company with the new team entrants, albeit 17th rather than 18th following Vitaly Petrov's five-place penalty.
“We suffered with a lot of graining on the soft tyres today,” the 29-year-old reported. “We missed out on the last run in the morning because of a puncture and didn't try the Option tyres, but we didn't expect them to grain as badly as they did.
“The first two laps of the final run were good and the first two sectors of the third lap were looking really good – I was on for a 1m38.2s at that point – but then the tyres grained so badly that I lost a lot of time through the last two corners as the car started to understeer a lot. Based on this wear rate, it's going to be an interesting race for sure.”
“Although P14 isn't exactly what we would have hoped for, we were still quite close to the top twelve and with a bit of luck could have been even closer to Q3,” mused Sutil. “In Q2, I had some traffic on my first lap and then my second was good, but it was tough out there with the tyres.
“That said, it's a great track they have built here. I really enjoyed driving on it – there are a lot of challenges and kinks, and it was so grippy at the end of the session that it was a real pleasure to drive each lap. From where we are on the grid, it's going to be a great race.”
With FIF1 now a mere two points ahead of Williams in the battle over sixth spot in the F1 2010 constructors' standings, however – and with both Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hülkenberg further up the order already this weekend – the Silverstone-based squad's chairman and team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya confessed that the goal for race day must be to capitalise on every single possibility that presents itself.
“The Korean Grand Prix organisers have done a fantastic job with the circuit and the facilities here,” enthused the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire. “The track seems to be a real modern classic that has got great feedback from the drivers, and I think this bodes extremely well for a thrilling race tomorrow.
“It hasn't been the kindest to us here today – we were competitive throughout the morning and weren't so far from the top twelve in the afternoon, but we've been suffering a lot with tyre-graining and that's what caught us out in qualifying. That said, we're still in a good position for the race tomorrow and I'm very hopeful of us doing well. I am sure the race will throw up a lot of unusual opportunities, and we've got to be well-poised to take any that come our way.”